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Chevron claimed corrupt Ecuadoran plaintiffs mounted an elaborate fraud to win a multi-billion-dollar case against it for polluting the Amazonian rainforest, in arguments before a US court. "It was a scheme so audacious, so bold it would make a Mafia boss blush," argued Randy Mastro, a lawyer for the US oil giant. "But Chevron didn't give in and that's why Chevron is here to get justice." Chevron has asked US Judge Lewis Kaplan to block Ecuador from enforcing a $9.51 billion Ecuadoran court award against the American company, alleging widespread corruption in the case.
By Mariam Karouny BEIRUT (Reuters) - When he was agitating for revolution, urging fellow Syrians to rise up against President Bashar al-Assad, Abdullah dreaded the midnight knock at the door from the secret police. Now that the uprising has succeeded in his home town near Aleppo, pro-democracy activists are living in fear again - and this time those who brand them "traitor" don't bother to knock. Two years ago, after Abdullah broke off his studies to run social media campaigns against Assad, he was held and tortured by security men. This summer, it happened again - only now it was Islamist gunmen loyal to al Qaeda who smashed into his family's house, broke everything in their way and took him off to a cell where, once more, he was blindfolded and beaten.
A group tasked with protecting the welfare of animals in the film industry blasted as "misleading" a report suggesting it turns a blind eye to abuse because it is too cozy with Hollywood. The Hollywood Reporter listed alleged incidents on films including the Oscar-winning "Life of Pi", where it said the Bengal tiger which is central to the movie reportedly nearly drowned. Twenty-seven animals involved in making the first movie of the "Hobbit" trilogy died, it said, also listing incidents where a chipmunk was squashed, a husky dog was punched, and fish died in making "Pirates of the Caribbean". But the American Humane Association (AHA) said the story "distorts the work and record of a respected nonprofit organization that has kept millions of beloved animal actors safe on film and television sets around the world."
French President Francois Hollande visits Spain on Wednesday for a bilateral summit seeking a common stance on banking supervision to avoid a repeat of the eurozone debt crisis. Having won backing for that from Italy's Prime Minister Enrico Letta last week, Hollande is now looking to bring Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy on board, French officials said. The push for closer EU banking supervision was largely driven by Spain's woes last year, when it was forced to accept an emergency credit line from its eurozone partners to save its financial sector from collapse.
Damascus vowed to keep fighting "terrorism" and the opposition insisted President Bashar al-Assad must go, as both sides dug in after a date for long-planned peace talks was set. The Geneva peace conference scheduled for January 22 is aimed at ending the nearly three-year-old civil war, a bloody stalemate which has killed an estimated 120,000 people and driven millions from their homes. But the opposition National Coalition, an umbrella group increasingly at odds with rebels on the ground, has insisted Assad have no role in the country's future, a demand long rejected by Damascus, casting doubt on whether a middle ground can be found. The fighting has meanwhile shown no signs of abating, with a car bomb killing 15 people at a bus stop west of Damascus on Tuesday and battles heating up on key fronts east and north of the capital.
Real Madrid will almost certainly be without Cristiano Ronaldo as they look to mathematically seal their place in the Champions League last 16 at home to Galatasaray on Wednesday. The Spanish giants are virtually already in the knockout stage as they would need to lose their remaining two games heavily having beaten Galatasaray and FC Copenhagen 6-1 and 4-0 respectively on matchday one and two. Ronaldo is unlikely to be risked as he suffered a minor thigh injury in Madrid's 5-0 destruction of Almeria on Saturday. Despite Ronaldo's withdrawal just after half-time with the score 1-0, Real shrugged off his departure to fire in four more goals in the final half hour with Gareth Bale among the goalscorers.
Leverkusen (Germany) (AFP) - Rio Ferdinand wants Manchester United to book their place in the Champions League's knock-out stages by beating Bayer Leverkusen away on Wednesday so they can focus on the Premier League. United slipped to a disappointing 2-2 draw at Premier League new-boys Cardiff City on Sunday which left them sixth in the table and seven points adrift of leaders Arsenal. David Moyes's side are unbeaten in their last ten matches but the Cardiff draw cost them a top four place in the Premier League.
By David Lague HONG KONG (Reuters) - In late October, flotillas of Chinese warships and submarines sliced through passages in the Japanese archipelago and out into the western Pacific for 15 days of war games. The drills, pitting a "red force" against a "blue force," were the first in this area, combining ships from China's main south, east and north fleets, according to the Chinese military. Land-based bombers and surveillance aircraft also flew missions past Japan to support the navy units. In official commentaries, senior People's Liberation Army (PLA) officers boasted their navy had "dismembered" the so-called first island chain - the arc of islands enclosing China's coastal waters, stretching from the Kuril Islands southward through the Japanese archipelago, Taiwan, the Northern Philippines and down to Borneo.